NEW YORK (December 20, 2017)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the three honorees who will receive the prestigious Helen Keller Achievement Awards at a special gala in Oakland, California, on April 4, 2018.
The awardees are Facebook and Microsoft, for their exemplary roles in creating accessible products or improving the accessibility of their already-popular products; and Haben Girma, for her advocacy and dedication to creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
“This year’s recipients capture the spirit of Helen Keller’s belief in the power of effecting social change,” said Kirk Adams, AFB president and CEO. “All of the awardees are making a dramatic difference in the lives of people with disabilities, and we are thrilled to recognize their accomplishments.”
Facebook is being lauded for steadily ensuring the highest levels of inclusivity in its platforms, including and especially for people with disabilities. This includes recent projects such as the Automatic Alternative Text feature, which provides an automatically generated image description that gives users with visual impairments a better sense of the photos their friends are sharing, as well as a myriad of product improvements to increase the compatibility of Facebook’s applications with assistive technology and accessibility-related settings.
Haben Girma is being recognized for her work as a disability rights lawyer, and the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. Her advocacy embodies Helen Keller’s values, from her legal victories that ensure online businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, to changing attitudes about disability worldwide. She has proven time and again that, in her words, “barriers exist not in the person, but in the physical, social, and digital environment.”
Microsoft is being honored for its significant strides in developing inclusive technologies to empower people with disabilities. Examples include the launch of the Seeing AI app, which narrates the world for people who are blind or have sight loss. Eye Control on Windows 10 is a new input that allows individuals with severe mobility issues, such as those that stem from Lou Gehrig’s disease, to communicate and use a computer with only the movement of their eyes. Many of the enhancements in Office 365 include accessibility improvements, such as optical character recognition in Office Lens, which inputs content directly into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For entertainment, Xbox One updates, like Copilot and the Accessibility API, make the system even more accessible to people with disabilities.
About the Helen Keller Achievement Awards
For more than 40 years, Helen Keller was AFB’s leading ambassador, inspiring millions of people around the world. Since 1994, AFB has honored her legacy by recognizing exceptional individuals and organizations that expand possibilities for those who are blind or visually impaired. Artists and musicians, including Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, have been honored, as well as leading corporations such as Apple, Comcast, Google, JPMorgan Chase — Co., Marriott International, and Netflix. For more information, visit: www.afb.org/hkaa
About the 2018 Helen Keller Achievement Award Recipients
Facebook was founded in 2004. The company’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Barack Obama named her a White House Champion of Change, and Forbes recognized her on their 30 Under 30 list. Haben travels the world consulting and public speaking, teaching clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services.
Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices, and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Company-wide, Microsoft continues to improve its products for all users, including those with sensory disabilities.
About The American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org